Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Endangered: The Art of Community Living

Endangered: The Art of Community Living

Community living is now a dying practice. ‘We’ is now getting replaced by ‘Me’. It’s not been a sudden over-night phenomenon. It’s gradually befallen us as we began to move towards a self-consuming lifestyle. I remember growing up in a building where evenings meant times for playing in the compound with the other kids my age, summer holidays meant time for all the mothers to be beleaguered by a bunch of noisy kids late into the nights and one did not have to worry about finding text books for the next academic year since a willing ‘senior’ among us had them all ready to be picked up from his/her place. As a six year old I remember running from door to door waiting for everyone to appreciate the new me each time I wore a new dress. Plucking flowers and making garlands out of them and then getting our dolls married were the annual events marked out in our annual calendars. Perhaps, the annual exams were the only lean periods around then.

Such camaraderie extended even between our mothers. We would often serve as courier boys/girls to send a share of those special dishes to the auntie next-door. The mothers would be often seen gossiping by the doors while we brought the roof down any given evening. Each of us had a ‘best friend’.

However, this art of community living is now conspicuous in its absence. Today the kids are more fascinated with the latest version of online games than outdoor games. Mothers would rather that their children learnt French or tennis than ‘waste’ time playing with the other kids. We always feel a severe time-crunch and leisure is precious. Hence, there is a maid to do the clothes, another to water the plants, a third to wash the clothes and yet another to collect them once they’ve dried. It’s smart to order-in rather than consult one’s neighbor to learn how that baked dish could be made. It’s a convenient life alright but we’ve chosen to withdraw into a shell. We love our fences more than our neighbors.

This may not give you the universal picture. But this is a change which I have sensed (and painfully so) every now and then. Just the other day we were making potato chips at home and realized that now it were  only my mother and I who dried the wafers while as kids, there would be atleast half-a dozen kids to help out.

 Here’s hoping that we revert to the good ol’ ways very soon…maybe this recipe could serve as ‘starters’. It’s as much fun to make them with everyone as to eat them!

My Mom-Made Potato Chips (‘cos of obvious copyright reason)

What you need:

3 kgs Chandramukhi  Potatoes (These are a special variety but are available widely)

Salt – as per taste

Oil for frying

Chilli powder to spice ‘em up

How to make it:

Wash, peel and slice the potatoes using a slicer. Fill up a bucket with water and add about 2 big spoons of salt to it. Soak the potato chips as soon as you slice them.

In a container bring about 4 glasses of water to boil. Make sure its bubbling hot. Immerse the potato slices in them for about 2 minute so that they are just about boiled partly and aren’t totally raw.

Spread out a sheet of plastic or an old sari in a place which gets the maximum sunlight in your house. Spread out the chips and let them dry. Make sure that the chips get a good deal of the sunshine on the first day. Collect the chips post sundown and set them out again for another 3-4 days. Once dried, they become tiny, transparent pieces.

Fry them and sprinkle some chilli powder on top. Store in an air-tight container and munch on at your own sweet will!


  1. Ah this is so true...but we dontnotice it...yes...coz we are too busy in our own lil worlds. No one wants to be seen babbling at doorsteps as it would constitute 'gossippig' these days!

    Oh thanks for the recipe, too! For someone who loves potato chips (I am even munching on them now) this is definitely one for the recipe book! :)

  2. im soo with you on this, girl...noticed it even more when i went back to india this time..when im here, i always think, things are differnet, you get to talk to your neighbours and stuff, but looks like i have more people coming to my place and more people to talk to, than my parents and mom especially feels so!!!

    yippee..thanks for the recipe for potato chips..like for ancie, its never too mcuh potato chips for me :)

  3. Really enjoyed your blog jigna. Even I grew up in an apartment complex where everyone lived like a big family celebrating all indian festivals with the same vivacity and enjoyed summers in each others houses playing ludo, carroms, and other indoor games.

    I think slowly india is adopting all the western cultures - good and bad. I am living in nz for the past 8 months and except my immediate neighbour, I dont even know the names of any of my other neighbours. They are all polite and nice when they greet you but we never drop by or invite you to their house.

    So what we indians do is travel 20-30 km to meet other indians since we are brought up that way....here i really agree with you manju..india is changing, but we have not..we still want to live how we grew up having friends over for lunches and dinners and festivals!